When Prop 8 passed we lived in Logan, Utah and it was difficult to have conversations with neighbors and friends about this heated topic. I do not understand why any person does not support marriage between 2 loving, consenting adults, regardless of their sex. I think it is important, when looking at an issue, to think of the humanity: How does Prop 8 affect a family? Thank you Tom, for sharing your story.
In August of 2008, we flew our small family to California to get legally hitched in San Francisco. We knew that our marriage would not mean much for us back here in Michigan, due to Prop 2’s passage a few years earlier. However, we decided it was important to us to make this happen for us and for our growing family. The trip out was shrouded in secrecy since we didn’t want our family to know what we were up to and try and talk us out of it. For our parents, and for many of our friends, our commitment ceremony in 2001, done in our humble backyard, was good enough for them.
However, it wasn’t good enough for us. We wanted to be legally married somewhere.
We both grew up in two-parent households, and to this day, our parents are still together and are both approaching their 50th anniversaries. So no one can blame us, as we had great role models for our decision to do this. It wasn’t until I was in junior high that I knew a kid that actually came from a divorced household, the thought terrified me as a kid. We were able to secure a time in San Francisco’s Beaux Arts City Hall on the same day we had our commitment ceremony in 2001, seven years earlier on August 4th. But this time, instead of 200 plus guests, we had a small gathering of friends, some family, a former student and Jeb, the man who married us. His partner Thomas wrangled the two kids in attendance and took pictures for us as Jeb preformed the ceremony on the balcony of the 4th floor of City Hall. Anna was our ring bearer and flower girl and stole the show from Jeb, who is also an international DJ as well as minister. A tough task, but Anna was up for it.
So we got married and that night we called our parents to let them in on our secret. Needless to say, they were thrilled and a bit confused (to their defense, it was late and they’re old). There were many questions to be asked, but we had a night of celebrating in front of us as Tod’s cousin took Anna for us so we could have the night to ourselves in the amazing city of San Francisco. Thomas and Jeb took us out for dinner and we celebrated over tapas and sangria.
When we returned there was life as usual waiting for us in Michigan as a recently married couple. We were busy getting back to school for the year and doing our best to help Obama get elected. We jumped into the campaign and did what we could to help. While all this was taking place, there was much campaigning going on in California for Proposition 8, reversing the ability for Lesbians and Gays to marry in California. We knew that this was happening when we made the decision to go out there, and that was one of the reasons why we didn’t tell our parents. We knew that there was a chance that Prop 8 would pass, but all the polls said we were safe, or so we thought.
We were overjoyed when Obama won, but then the news started coming in that Prop 8 might pass. As it became clear that it did indeed pass, a roar of opposition came from around the county. It was unheard of that we could elect our first Black President in 2008, but we were still in the Dark Ages when it came to LGBT rights. As we got used to the fact that it did indeed pass, our hearts sank. Suddenly, our status as a legally married couple was in jeopardy. It was infuriating for sure, and a bit sad. It didn’t help matters when the donor lists became available and it became clear that there were several religious groups behind the massive amount of funding needed to make it pass. One of the chief groups was the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, or Mormons.
Suddenly we were thrown into a state of confusion and internal conflict because as soon as the votes were counted, the appeals started. We took part in many different protests around the area and lent our voice to the chorus of disapproval to those who funded this contentious bill.
As Obama was inaugurated, and the distinctly anti-Gay pastor Rick Warren led the prayer, I began to wonder if my efforts were worth it. I felt betrayed and out of sorts. I retreated inward and became emotionally and socially isolated. It didn’t help matters that I was also on sabbatical during a rather vicious Michigan winter and spent most of the time indoors alone. I checked dozens of LGBT focused blogs religiously each day in hopes that there might be a tidbit of information on the appeal. Then in March it began…
From across the country I watched a tiny video feed on my computer screen as the court case began in the same building where we were married. There were many impassioned voices from both sides, but the voice of reason seemed to be with our side. How is it ever right to allow a majority to vote on minorities’ rights? How can you repeal this when over 18,000 couples have already gotten married under the law? The questions kept coming to Judge Walker and he listened to each side, never once hinting at his stance. There were bloggers who chose to out him as a Gay Man, and the right demanded that he step down as his own sexuality might somehow affect his ability to rule justly and fairly.
But then there was a whole lot of nothing after the initial case in March. From March until August not much happened. We were still waiting in this morbid limbo of uncertainty as Judge Walker mulled his decision. Meanwhile, we were busy as ever welcoming Elijah into our house. We found out about him in May and by the end of July, he was living with us full time. This change brought up a whole host of questions for us regarding our marriage and our kids, questions that heterosexual couples NEVER have to ask or worry over.
1. We’re both legal parents to Anna (due to second parent adoption) and we’re married. Shouldn’t Eli be considered both our child as well? Unfortunately, no.
2. What if something were to happen to Tod, who is the legal parent to Eli? If we were a heterosexual couple, this wouldn’t even be a question. Eli would remain with the surviving spouse, no questions asked. With us, this isn’t as certain.
As the summer wrapped up and we began to settle into life with a new 1 and a half year old, the news that Judge Walker had ruled Prop 8 unconstitutional came on our anniversary. More on that here:
So what now? We’re still legally married, the passing of Prop 8 didn’t change that as they allowed the marriages to stay, but there are many couples who, for whatever reason, didn’t get married in time and are now wanting to do so in California, and until all this is cleared up, they can’t. And across the USA, small amounts of Gay and Lesbian couples are legally marrying in states that allow it and returning home to their state that may or may not allow for full legal rights under marriage.
Is this fair? Is this equal? No and no.
How are states going to deal with this? Do you have to remarry as a heterosexual couple when you move to a new state? NO. I for one am a little nervous and a little happy that there are pockets of us out there in the US demanding that we have full and equal access to the legal rights of marriage. Obama, once the apparent enemy of LGBT rights is coming around and is doing some great things for us. Time will tell, as will countless more trials and appeals are certainly on the docket. Both sides of this argument are well-funded and apparently doing nothing else but messing with my rights as an American citizen. But our family is now part of this fight for equality and we take the notion of marriage and family seriously.
It’s a fight I wish we didn’t have to do, but it’s one I am ready for.